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Archive for April 22nd, 2014

The first time I was on the job market, Colin Jerolmack was also on the job market. Of course, I didn’t actually know his name. I only knew him as “the pigeon guy” and that there was a highly-sought-after job candidate who studied pigeons. It seemed to work out pretty well for him. A quirky research topic is not necessarily job market gold, however, as Todd Platts recently discussed at Inside Higher Ed.

Platts studies zombies, and while the job market is obviously a mystery, there are some important distinctions between Jerolmack and Platts. First, of course, is the fact that Jerolmack worked with Mitch Duneier as a graduate student at the CUNY Graduate Center while Platts graduated from the University of Missouri. Beyond a famous advisor, though, Jerolmack also effectively framed his research within the broader sociological context. For example, part of the description of his book, The Global Pigeon, states, “By exploring what he calls “the social experience of animals,” Jerolmack shows how our interactions with pigeons offer surprising insights into city life, community, culture, and politics.” Rather than using our fascination with zombies to illuminate some aspect of everyday social life, Platts appears to use sociology to illuminate zombies. Finally, the types of institutions that Platt has targeted in his job searches are less likely to have room for esoteric research topics.

None of this is to say that Platt isn’t worthy of a job, or even that there are problems with his job market materials. It does suggest that there are differences in professional socialization at different types of sociology graduate programs and that finding an advisor who will encourage you to follow your dreams without helping you situate those dreams within mainstream sociology might not be the best approach to finding a job in a tough market. The ability to balance freedom with professional socialization is important to consider whether choosing between graduate programs or choosing whether to go to graduate school at all.

Yes, Memoirs of a SLACer is still on Facebook.

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